'Our secret is out,' community activist tells crowd at Winnipeg rally

Winnipeg crowd pledges to lead by example

Rally against violence turns into a call to action against racism

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Drummers play on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg Friday evening.

Drummers play on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg Friday evening. (John Woods)

A rally against violence in North End Winnipeg turned into a call to action in the wake of Maclean’s story this week that called out Winnipeg for racism.

“We can’t change what’s happened in the past,” organizer Michael Champagne told a crowd at the Selkirk Avenue Belltower Friday night. “But we can change the future if we lead with our example.”

“Our secret is out. I think we’ll become a better, stronger, healthier, kinder city if we acknowledge our failing and act proactively to change it,” Leah Gazan, president of the city’s Social Planning Council told Maclean’s. “It’s our secrets that keep us sick.”

Related: Racism in Canada: The conversation begins 

Winnipeggers of all ethnic backgrounds said they were there to stand up against the ugly racism many indigenous residents tell Maclean’s is their daily reality. Andrew Vineberg said he wanted to be part of “bridging that divide.”

City resident Arden Ogg said it was crucially important to stand beside the city’s indigenous community today, and in the weeks ahead. “Non-Aboriginal people need to understand the burden some carry, and find ways to restore respect.”

Indigenous youth activist Jenna Wirch said the week’s debates had opened the “floodgates” on a dialogue that is essential and long overdue. “We’re making history right now,” Wirch added, shaking her head. “It’s been an amazing week.”

Michael Champagne speaks Friday night at a community event in Winnipeg. (John Woods)

Michael Champagne speaks Friday night at a community event in Winnipeg. (John Woods)

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